Disability benefit tests like being “on trial”

Monday 12th August 2019

A survey has revealed dissatisfaction, mistrust and anger among disabled people at the way the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) determines whether someone is eligible for benefits.

Disabled Scots described face-to-face interviews with assessors who have little medical knowledge as “degrading”, “humiliating” and “stressful”.

One who attended the meeting with their son said they felt like they were “on trial at a court”.

The survey was carried out on behalf of the Scottish Government as it takes on responsibility for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a payment to help offset the costs of living with a disability or long-term health condition, from the DWP.

Concerns outlined in the report centre on the reliability of the interviewers and the way they work out eligibility.

Many of those surveyed felt the interviewer did not understand their condition, with some saying they felt ‘condescended’ during the interview.

One parent said: “I have attended PIP interviews with my children and been appalled at how little the person knew about their conditions. They wrote ridiculous comments on the report.”

Others felt the existing approach was a ‘tick box’ exercise in which assessors with followed a standardised list of questions that did not account for their disability.

Just under 3 in 4 of those questioned wanted to see assessments recorded so they can challenge any discrepancies and refer back to it in the case of any disputes. 

Under current rules clients have to provide an approved audio recording device at their own expense. They are not allowed to film the interview.

The DWP has faced sustained criticism for subcontracting disability assessments to private outsourcing giants such as Atos and Capita. Scottish ministers have already committed to ending the involvement of private companies.

More than 250,000 Scots claim PiP or its predecessor, Disability Living Allowance.

The Scottish Government has promised to ‘significantly’ reduce the number of face-to-face assessments used for the Scottish Disability Assistance payment, its replacement for PIP.